Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Cow Looks at Stormwater Fees

Howard Council collecting information before stormwater vote 
A majority of Howard County residents last week spoke in favor of the county administration's plan to implement a state-mandated fee next year to pay for stormwater-related projects. County Council members, however, say they still need to be convinced it is the best way to go.

"We need to be sure the way we move forward is most efficient for county taxpayers," Council member Courtney Watson said. The council is scheduled to vote on the bill Monday, March 4.

The Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, signed into law last year, requires larger counties in the state to collect fees to pay for stormwater management as well as stream and wetland restoration projects. The projects are aimed at improving water quality and reducing phosphorous and nitrogen levels entering the Chesapeake Bay.

All property owners — except state and local governments and volunteer fire companies — will be required to pay the fee, which will be a separate line item on their property tax bill starting in 2014.

A bill before the County Council is proposing that for every 500 square feet of impervious surface, property owners will be charged $7.80. Homes built after 2002 will pay a lower fee because they use the latest stormwater standards.

Impervious surfaces include paved driveways and rooftops. The county's Geographic Information Services will determine the building footprint and paved surface for each home and business. For example, the owner of a moderately sized home (roughly 2,640 square feet) built before 2002 can expect to pay $39 a year, while the owner of a home built after 2002 would pay $31. Owners of larger homes with long driveways can expect to pay $195 if their home was built before 2002 and $101 if it was built after 2002.

The fee is expected to "significantly" increase during the next five years, according to county stormwater manager Jim Caldwell, but the county can't predict how high.
For example, we have a 2 story house with approximately 2,500 sq ft, so 1250 sq ft of roof, a garage that's approximately 900 sq feet, and a driveway of 15 by 50 ft for 750 sq ft, for a total of roughly 2900 sq ft.  Call it 3000.  That would amount to a bill of approximately  $45 per year.

No offset that I see for the fact that we own an undeveloped lot behind and downhill from our building lot that absorbs the vast majority of the runoff from any rains or snow melt on our building lot.  We only see run off in the back lots in the event of very strong downpours.

Now, $45 isn't going to break us, but if it were me (and we don't live in Calvert County)  I'd like some assurance that the money would be well used.

I haven't yet heard if Cal Cow has been targeted for these fees.

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